Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nikon D810: Tactile and Operational Impressions

There is something refreshingly Nikon-like about the D810 refresh. Even though there is nothing earth-shattering about the technology, there are a multitude of changes throughout the camera that synergistically add up to an improved shooting experience. Though  it is true that much of the sensor-level improvements relate to video work, the overall stills photography experience with the D810 is also improved... and in a way that does not easily come across when you run down the spec-sheet.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vancouver 2014 Honda Celebration of Light Guide

This weekend marks the start of the annual fireworks festival in Vancouver. The pertinent dates are:

  • July 26: USA
  • July 30: France
  • August 2: France

Some resources to help you our if you are in town and want to try your hand at fireworks photography:

Fireworks nights are not just about the pyrotechnics, but given the logistics of getting to one of the viewing venues, its almost always about soaking in the ambience of being out on the town in the afternoon and evening before.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM versus Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART on Canon 5D Mark III

Sigma's new 50mm ART started off life with some bold claims about its resolving capabilities: as good as the Zeiss Otus. It has (mostly) lived up to the hype surrounding its launch, and is legitimately a "premium" lens. You can mention it in the same breath as the pricey Canon 50mm f/1.2L, so how does it fair against the venerable Canon 50mmL in real world terms?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Manfrotto BeFree (MKBFRA4-BH) Tripod Review

Small, strong, or cheap: when it comes to tripods the conventional wisdom is that you can have two but not all three. There hasn't been any product to definitively break this rule, but nevertheless there are whole hosts of photographers who are looking for a tripod that is small, sturdy and cheap. In economics this quest would be known as "rational behaviour." That is to say, it is rational for photographers to want a tripod with these three qualities, even if expecting that one exists is most likely irrational. The Manfrotto BeFree (MKBFRA4-BH) doesn't fulfill this ideal but it does shift the points of the Venn diagram inward by being unarguably small, relatively sturdy, and not exceedingly expensive. Depending on your point of view, that makes it either well-balanced for its price point or somewhat compromised in terms of its design. The truth, as always, is a little bit of both.

Manfrotto 560B-1 Video Monopod with RC2 Quick Release Review

Video is one of the last remaining frontiers of digital photography. Most photographers are comfortable with their stills gear, but video gear is a whole new world to explore. The Manfrotto 560B-1 video monopod is the little brother to the version with the more useful 500 series fluid drag head. The higher-model is more useful, but the560B-1 does have its charm.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Eyelead Sensor Gel Stick Review

Eyelead's Sensor Gel Stick is a novel approach to cleaning dust off of your camera's sensor. Rather than blowing or wiping, the product takes the lint-roller approach to lifting dust off of the low pass filter of your camera sensor... that is, by straight up adhesion. To be precise, the cleaning action is a "dab," but the mechanics are the same. This product is reputedly used by the manufactures themselves (Leica, Nikon et al) so is something that is good enough for the camera companies good enough for you?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lenspen SensorKlear II Review

SensorKlear II with articulating head and cap
Dust is either the mortal enemy of the modern digital camera sensor or it is an overblown bogeyman that warrants too much concern. The truth isn't somewhere in between; everybody's truth is different. The obvious choice for sensor cleaning is to use a blower, but that's not always enough. Wet cleaning and any other method that involves physically touching the sensor (actually, the sensor filter cover to be precise) is a taunting task for many people. What if the process was actually....easy? Cleaning a cameras sensor will never be a casual affair, but the Sensorklear II is unassumingly user friendly in this regards.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nikon P7800 Review

For many reasons, Nikon never quite established a hold in the advanced compact category, but not for a lack of trying. In the early days of digital, that opposite was true, and the Coolpix line, though not consistent, did meander through a number of well regarded offerings. Cameras like the innovate Coolpix 900 with its swivelling body, the competent Coolpix 5400, which was an early fore-bearer of what we now think of as an advanced compact, and the Coolpix 5700, which we recognize today in cameras like the Panasonic FZ-200. None of these aforementioned cameras were ground-breaking, but they did demonstrate a commitment on Nikon's part to cater to the needs of enthusiast photographers. That was a different time, and in the years that followed "Coolpix" became synonymous with "entry-level consumer."

Times change. The Coolpix P7800 is probably one of the most enthusiast-oriented compacts on the market, but the industry is now chasing after this group of users with 1/1" sensor compacts. This may or may not work, as price points have crept up significantly. At one time 1/17" sensors were considered "large." That is no longer the case, but the trade-off is a difference of $300 USD or more. It might not be leading edge, but the P7800 still has its place.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Fast Does A SD Card Need To Be For My Camera?

The memory card isle at your typical camera/computer shop can be often be a bewildering array of sizes and prices. This is a classic example of what is known in economics as price discrimination. Memory card product positioning does not have to be this complicated, but the wide array of price and selection is a mechanism designed to identify who is willing to pay how much for a memory card. The memory card manufacturers have to balance two sets of customers; those seeking value and those seeking performance. The key to product positioning and pricing is to maintain low prices for those that are the most cost-conscious while differentiating the high-end enough so that those who are willing to pay more will not be tempted to settle for the lower cost alternatives. This is also somewhat affectionately known as "Starbucks Pricing,"  as the strategy is to offer an overwhelming amount of choice without having the customer feel like he/she is being lead along a sliding price-scale experiment.Naturally, this makes finding the appropriate memory card for a given digital camera a little more than simple for the initiated. Fortunately, there's a very simple answer....

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sony DSC-RX100M3 Review

There's an old maxim in business that if you are standing still, you are actually moving backwards. Sony seems to have taken this to heart with the RX100, quickly producing two iterations of their flagship compact model. This is quite an aggressive roadmap considering that the original RX100 would still be the best compact camera on the market in 2014 were it not for its successors. However, the camera market is suffering through a decline in 2014, and the compact segment is being (has been) obliterated by the rise of smartphones. Consequently, all of the manufacturers are paying attention to the premium end of the remaining viable market segments with the hopes of maintaining margins. Ostensibly, 2014 is the year of the 1/1" sensor and the other manufacturers are now finally bringing their advanced compacts to this level. Panasonic is pushing ahead with 4K video with the FZ1000 while Fujifilm is (at the time of this writing) all but sure to enter the market with an X-Trans successor to the X20. Sony has gotten out ahead of this new era with the RX100M3, and Sony being Sony, will want to keep their stamp on this market segment as the premium product leader. Will they be successful?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO Review

Even though the weather is dreary this time of year, the past couple of months were the start of birding season here in the Greater Vancouver region.  This is the time of year when the bald eagles return, and there are multiple spotting opportunities along the waterways. Of course birding means long lenses, and the rule of thumb is that you can never get close enough with the lens that you have. By it's very natural, bird photography is an expensive hobby. This is where the Sigma 150-500mm enters. It's still not an inexpensive lens, but it's much less expensive than any other lens of a similar focal length. Compared to the "Bigma" 50-500mm, the 150-500mm is a more focused device for long range photography.

Updated July 2014: Added comparison sample with Nikon AF-S 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR